New Business Shows Power of Having a Really Specific Target Market (Watch)

When starting a business, it’s important to have a specific target market in mind. Some businesses target large groups like millennials or women. But others get even more specific.

The Value of a Specific Target Market

Take the case of ExpressionMed. The company, founded by 19-year-old Meghan Sharkus, makes only one type of product — colorful stickers that hold insulin delivery devices in place. The market for this product is small but clear. She’s aiming to help kids with diabetes change the perception around the disease.

Right now, Sharkus makes all of the stickers by hand. But she recently started a Kickstarter campaign in order to get started with machine manufacturing.

So even though her business only offers one type of product targeted at a very specific group of people, it’s doing well enough for her to consider expanding. And since about 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, many of them kids, there’s still a sizeable market for her products.

Other businesses can potentially learn a thing or two from Sharkus. Even though she’s young, she was able to create a product with a very clear purpose and market it to a very specific audience. Whether you sell one product or a hundred, that’s an essential building block of any successful business.

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5 Great Tips on Successful Small Business Branding

5 Small Business Branding Tips

We all understand how important brands can be.  There are brands that signify all over the world.  Nike.  Harley Davidson.  Starbucks.  These are companies that are more than just the products they sell.  They’re lifestyles.  They’re statements, both about the company and the consumers who choose them.

If you think bold, memorable branding is only available to big companies with massive marketing budgets, think again!  No matter your industry, you can cultivate a unique brand that resonates with your clients.  Want to know how to do it?

Small Business Branding Tips

1. Clarify Your Company’s Purpose

For a brand to be meaningful, it must connect to your company’s reason for being (which, incidentally, assumes you have a reason for being above and beyond simply earning an income.)  Why did you start your company?  How do you think you’re making the world a better place?  Without a firm grasp of your purpose, you’ll never be able to communicate what’s unique and important about your company.

2. Enlist Your Employees

Along with clarifying your purpose, you must also ensure that every single member of your staff understands that purpose and knows how and why to communicate that purpose with every customer.  In a perfect world, your purpose isn’t something that’s pounded into your staff.  It’s something you hire for.  When you hire an employee who shares your values, then you’re on the right track.  Effective branding isn’t an afterthought.  It infuses everything you do!

3. Create a Rallying Cry

So for my company, Profit First, our purpose, our rallying cry is “We want to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty!”  We say it, and we mean it.  Every morning huddle (our quickie standing meeting) reiterates our purpose and the steps we’re going to take that day to accomplish it.  Our rallying cry lets us communicate our purpose and values quickly … to anyone and everyone.  That’s our brand.

4. Enlist Your Customers

You know your purpose.  Your staff knows your purpose.  But do your customers know your purpose?  Letting your clients know that they’re buying more than just your goods or services is key to enlisting them in your brand building efforts.  Consider the Life is Good brand.  When people don a t-shirt, they’re making a statement about a lifestyle, rather than just getting dressed.  Folding in what makes you unique and worthwhile is a big part of successful branding.

5. Hire a Pro

Sometimes we think we should be able to do it all, but no matter how talented you are, you need help in the areas that aren’t your strength.  If marketing isn’t your thing, consider hiring a consultant or agency to help you crystallize and evangelize your brand.  Professionals can help you avoid spinning your wheels and wasting money on ineffective tactics.

Your brand is more than just your company name and a slogan.  It’s the expression of your values, your quality, and your unique vision.  Branding done right cements you in the minds of your customers.  It makes it easy for people to understand who you are and what you do.  Branding differentiates you from your competitors, and it speaks to your ideal customer, resonating with the people who will most appreciate your work.

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10 Digital Advertising Trends Important to Small Business

10 Digital Advertising Trends Important to Small Business

We are now nearing the end of Q1 for 2017, and it’s safe to say that numerous advancements have occurred within the digital media world, both good and bad. The accelerated prominence of video has continued, and the mobile phone is still continuing to dominate our lives.

Anyway, it’s a new year which means we can start to develop new digital marketing strategies to propel brands forward in the coming months.

Below are the top 10 trends that will define this year in digital marketing, according to Sean Mulrooney, CEO of NW3 Media:

Digital Advertising Trends

Mobile

Last year was a big one for mobile, and there’s no doubt that we will see the same in 2017. In fact, Zenith predicts that in 2017, mobile advertising will finally reach the critical inflection point and surpass that of desktop.

The prevalence of handheld devices and the fact that desktop traffic is passing into oblivion clearly indicates that mobile is, in fact, the future. If you are not catering your content, ads, and website towards mobile users, then you are missing out on a massive opportunity. Don’t make a few technical tweaks here and there, but honestly examine your online experience to ensure that it’s integrated with a user’s lifestyle that is “on-the-go.”

Native

Business Insider reports that spending on native advertising reached $7.9 billion in 2016, with projections skyrocketing to $21 billion in 2018, and expected to expand across numerous platforms. Digital savvy consumers are now wary of extremely overt advertising, and the increased ability to skip ads or remove banners on browsers means that a more integrated ad experience is more likely to reach its target audience. If it’s done well, native advertising is unobtrusive and seamlessly integrated into the regular content on a platform, providing value to the audience in addition to reaching them with your advertising.

Video

If you’ve checked in on any of the popular social media sites lately, you’ll notice that most are dominated by video content. Facebook Live, Snapchat stories, not to mention the already ubiquitous videos shared on Twitter and Youtube. (Video is quickly on its way to becoming the king of content.) Fail to incorporate video content in your advertising, and you may be left in the dust.

The trend goes hand in hand with the growth of mobile. Invodo reports that video viewership on mobile surpassed that of desktop since Q4 of 2015. What makes YouTube such an advertising powerhouse is its ability to reach the Millennial audience, with YouTube reaching more 18-49 years olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined.

Interactive Content

Remember those classic magazine quizzes like “What Lipstick Color Are You” or “What Superhero Are You Most Like?” They are here in the digital space too, and they can also be leveraged for their advertising potential.

Content that users interact with leaves a greater impression than those they only read. It takes the audience from a passive to an active role. Interactive content in ads or on the advertiser’s site, from quizzes, polls and infographics is essential in an age when mere visual and written ads are likely to be lost in a sea of content.

Personalized Content

Consumers are now constantly bombarded with ads every day. This dilutes the effect of most advertising campaigns. Yankelovich President Jay Walker-Smith says the average user is now exposed to over 5,000 ads per day, making it difficult to capture the attention of a distracted audience.

In order to cut through the clog, advertisers must hone in on exactly what specific consumers care about — in other words, personalize the ad experience. Fortunately, with increasing data and the ability to track consumer habits, interests and activity, advertisers have the capacity to segment ads to target specific types of users. While it may mean a bit more work initially, the benefits are certainly worth it.

Influencers

Influencers are like word of mouth on steroids. Few tactics are more effective in the digital advertising age than having a well-followed influencer touting your product. Trust is built in, and reach is instant across multiple platforms.

Influencer advertising is on the rise because people tend to trust recommendations from their favorite social media personality much more than any traditional campaign telling them a product is great. Influencers have a vested interest in maintaining a halo of honesty, which then transfers to their recommendations. With the right influencer partners, advertisers can build rapid followings in little time.

The familiar channels of Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter are of course the prime targets. But also consider niche forums such as Reddit. You can even target B2B industry influencers who blog.

Chatbots

Chatbots have come a long way since the days of Microsoft Clippy.

Google’s Allo was launched in September 2016 and hailed as “the most significant chatbot messaging platform ever” with its ability to read and interpret messages, while recommending appropriate responses in turn. Advertisers quickly jumped on the trend, providing the ease of hands-free, voice-activated and concierge-like service right in the consumer’s home.

Chatbots allow for real-time, 24-hour engagement with customers. AIs provide a personalized experience for customers, without the actual need for a person for every customer. A personal sales associate for anyone that wants to chat is the type of positive consumer experience of many companies’ fever dreams; chatbots are making that happen, with AI and big data providing update and market strategy in real-time that will improve the advertising potential the more chatbots are used.

Live Video

Live video is the new “it girl” to the scene, made evident by Snapchat’s meteoric rise. When Facebook announced Live, the company was so confident in the potential of this content distribution channel that it made multi-million dollar deals with publishers like Buzzfeed to keep the content coming in. The deal is working out wonderfully for all parties. Facebook reported that users watched live videos three times longer that those that weren’t live.

Following in the tradition of vlogs and popular reaction videos, the content is more spontaneous, more intimate and able to visually and emotionally reach viewers immediately, creating a more impactful experience that advertisers continually strive for.

Data, Data, Data!

It’s no longer viable to invest in advertising and content if you don’t pay attention to the data and metrics that go with it. Not only can it be used to determine the success or failure of a campaign, but it also gives valuable insight into the minds of customers. This can help advertisers continually perfect and correct what they are putting out.

Every major platform — from email to Facebook, Google and Instagram — provides metrics and data to advertisers. More content interaction means more ways to source data, and cloud storage and machine learning provide a more accurate and faster way to process this data than ever before. Ignore these assets, and your ads will be left in the dust.

Ad Blocking

More than 400 million mobile web users and 200 million desktop web users are using ad-blocking technology to restrict the banner ads displayed on their devices. However, marketers should stop worrying about it. Yes, you read right, stop worrying about it. It’s a reality, and as frustrating as it is, ad blocking is here to stay. There will be a constant cat and mouse game between advertisers and platforms against developers of ad blockers.

It is better for advertisers to focus their energy on diversifying their media and seeking outlets like native advertising and useful content embedded with advertising that circumvents ad blockers. Traditional online advertising is not well received by consumers, blocked or not, so advertisers should focus on creating content consumers want to see, rather than content they consider to be a nuisance.

Final Thoughts

Growing your business isn’t easy, is it? Increasing your influence and earning more customers is a challenge every company deals with. The key to your marketing success is staying on top of the trends. The last thing that you want is to be left behind. Pay close attention to the development of the trends listed in this article, and you will stay ahead of your competition.

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5 Small Business Marketing Schemes That Will Waste Your Money

5 Small Business Marketing Schemes That Waste Money

Marketing is no easy task. Whole businesses exist devoted to marketing other businesses. Some companies have their own marketing departments. Small businesses often rely on the DIY approach to marketing. When developing your own marketing strategy, take care to avoid wasting your time and money.

Marketing Schemes That Waste Money

Mistake 1: Too Many Social Channels

Judging by some of the marketing advice you’ll come across on the web, you may think you need to be everywhere, all the time.

What a colossal waste.

When it comes to marketing via social networks, the most important thing is for you to be where your target audience is already spending their time. Do your customers spend lots of time on Instagram? Then don’t waste your time Tweeting.

Focus your marketing and engagement efforts on Instagram. This frees up your time to engage directly with your customers even more on their favorite channels. You can find out which social networks your customers prefer by simply asking, or by using a CRM with social media integration built in.

Mistake 2: Creating New Content

You’ve heard you need fresh content all the time. New blog post every day, right? Nope.

Your customers want a relationship with your business. They want to know you value them. They don’t want to get buried in your posts. Trying to create new content about your business or related to your business gets old fast — for you and your customers.

Try a better approach. Use some of your marketing budget to hire a content developer to create high quality content optimized for your business. Remember quality over quantity.

An interesting, professionally crafted infographic will get you much more customer engagement than a rambling post on your biz blog about industry minutiae.

Sharing content is important for engagement and variety. Choose carefully. Share only things that your audience will find value in. Save those 50 cat memes for your personal accounts.

Mistake 3: Casting a Wide Net

Your marketing efforts will work better if you target your audience effectively. Casting a wide net may seem like a simpler method, especially for DIYers, but you’ll end up wasting time and money marketing to the wrong people in the wrong places.

Ask current customers where they spend time online, what encourages them to make a purchase, and how they found you.

Create a Buyer Persona, this is a sort of bio of your ideal customer. Use the persona and any data you collect from customers to identify where best to apply your marketing efforts.

Mistake 4: Influencer Marketing

Everywhere you look, someone is advising you to find influencers to promote your business. This trend in marketing is taking off.

First, decide whether it’s right for your business. If you’re in an obscure industry or create products for a small niche market, influencers are probably not going to be much help to you.

If you decide this is the right path for you, be sure you have compelling things for an influencer to share about you in the first place. An interesting narrative can make all the difference. It’s imperative you identify key influencers in your industry with whom to build relationships.

Avoid wasting your time and money on a low impact influencer or one in the wrong industry.

Mistake 5: Video Marketing

Before you shell out beaucoup bucks hiring a video production company to create the perfect marketing video, consider a few important things. Chances are very good that your customers are watching video online, but where?

It’s important to know what platform your videos would be viewed on before you create one. Marketing videos on Instagram will be consumed a bit differently than on Facebook, for example. What kind of value will video give your customers?

A boring product demo is probably not going to inspire much engagement. A sneak peek of a new product that leaves some features to the imagination can be exciting. Video that makes an emotional impact inspires engagement well.

Before hitching your wagon to a new marketing technique, be sure it’s right for your business. It must be a way to provide your customers something of value. It must be shared where they are most likely to engage. Develop a detailed strategy with clear goals. Always measure your results, so you can make adjustments as necessary.

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How to Run an Email Marketing Campaign That Doesn’t Annoy Recipients

How to Avoid Annoying Your Email List

Email marketing is a core facet of online marketing. No matter how a customer or potential customer landed on your email list, it is important to use the opportunity to build a deeper relationship while avoiding falling into the “annoying” or “spam” categories.

If you want to retain email followers and turn them into customers, follow these basic guidelines to ensure they remain a happy subscriber for years to come.

How to Avoid Annoying Your Email List

Don’t Start with a Hard Sell

People sign up for your email list for a variety of reasons. The most popular methods to build lists today revolve around giveaways and freebies. If someone signs up for your list to get a free eBook, the first thing you do shouldn’t be asking for money.

It is okay to sell to your email list. In fact, that is the biggest reason to have an email list for most brands, but it takes time to build the trust for someone to want to spend money on your product or service. Instead of starting with a sale, start by thanking them for being a part of your list and giving them the free giveaway they asked for.

Focus on Being Helpful

If you are helpful, users will start to trust and enjoy hearing from you. Always try to be as helpful as possible each time you send a message to a subscriber. Either include something useful for your target audience in the email text or point readers to another resource on the web, maybe something new on your blog, that will help them succeed.

If you help your subscribers regularly, they are sure to come back for more. The more helpful you are, the more loyal they will be. If you really change the game for someone, they might even become an online evangelist helping spread the word about your business.

Mix Up Your Emails to Stay Interesting

If you use the same template again and again and again and again and again and again and again, you will see more and more readers clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails. Don’t be repetitive and boring, be useful and fun.

In my email series for new subscribers at Personal Profitability, I have some short emails and some long emails. Some focus on a specific tool that can help people save time and money, while others focus on “homework” readers can participate in to level up their finances. By mixing things up and keeping it interesting, I have seen my email open rates increase and my list size grow.

Be Genuine and Honest

My email subscribers trust me because I am honest, transparent and genuine. In fact, I go so far as to publish how much money I earn each month on my website. While that may seem crazy in a world where money talk is still a faux pas, by sharing my successes and failures, I am showing readers my true colors, further building trust.

Sharing my online income reports each month also gives subscribers a reason to come back to my site each month. I give a unique, personal update via email and share the details on the blog.

Make Your Emails Something People Look Forward To

I have unsubscribed from hundreds of newsletters, but there are a few that I have stuck with over time. One example is Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income email list. Pat is an online entrepreneurship rock star, and his emails and blog posts give amazing, free information that helps me and thousands of others improve their online business.

I always look forward to Pat’s emails because he is genuine, friendly and incredibly helpful. His free guides are packed with actionable steps and tips that anyone with a business can use to improve online performance. While I know an email from Pat will likely lead to me doing more work, I look forward to it because his advice almost always comes with a great payoff.

Be Clear About Your Goals

Passive aggressiveness is horribly annoying in real life, subtle hints online are not even tolerable to most people. When you are trying to be helpful, be clear that your goal with that email is being helpful. If you are trying to get affiliate signups, be clear and present your readers with one thing to do in that email, signing up for the affiliate.

When it comes to product sales, you shouldn’t sell with every single email, but it is okay to make a direct sale every once in a while. In my old website development business, emails one to four were solely designed to be helpful. Number five was a soft sell. Six through eight were also freebies packed with useful information. The final email in the signup series, email nine, was a hard sell. In the selling emails, I made it very clear that my goals were to sell a service.

Put Yourself in the Subscriber’s Position

How do you feel when you signup for email lists? Why do you choose to signup and what keeps you on the list with so many demands for your attention? Learn from your favorite email lists and mimic, without directly copying, what your favorite email lists provide.

If you can synthesize what you enjoy and put your own original twist on it, you are sure to retain subscribers for the long-term. And long-term subscribers are the most likely to become fans and customers. If you can avoid being annoying and always focus on providing great value, you will be on track for great success with your list.

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How to Acquire Higher Quality Backlinks

How to Acquire Higher Quality Backlinks

Google stated that there are three top factors that go into their search ranking algorithm: RankBrain, their artificial intelligence system, content and links. They also then clarified that the top two factors were content and links. Not trying to put words in Google’s mouth, but I would venture to say that links are the most important and powerful part of SEO.

Links are how search engines determine what a site is, how relevant the site is, how pages are related, etc. They show search engines how to rank your page, so you want to make sure that you have a strong link building strategy as part of your SEO plan. Links are one of your most powerful assets, and they take time and dedication. Below are four tips to help you acquire higher quality backlinks for your site.

Sources of Higher Quality Backlinks

Trustworthy Sites

Not all links are created equal. Some sites provide better SEO juice than others. Think about it this way. Lets say that you are up for a promotion at work. You would rather have your manager or direct supervisor tell your boss how good of an employee you are instead of the intern who has been there two days. Why? Because a manager or supervisor has more authority than the intern. That’s not to say that the intern is useless or unwanted. It’s just their opinion is probably going to hold less weight in the eyes of your boss.

Same goes for SEO. A link from a site that has been deemed authoritative on its topic, like the Wall Street Journal, is going to give you better results than a link from a newspaper source that has been around for two months. These high-quality sites are more trust worthy to search engines and will give you more of an increase in the SERPs. Reach out to newspaper sites, education sites, .gov sites and .org sites to see if they would take your content, which will give you a backlink.

Guest Posting

Guest posting or guest blogging is when you offer to write content for another site in order to get yourself in front of their audience and then get a link back to your site. Guest posting is perhaps the best way to generate high-quality, lasting inbound links. You get more control over the links and URLs and over the content in general. However, this takes a little more effort than some other techniques.

Make sure you find well-known and trusted blogs to send your content to. Write a relevant, and quality piece of content and send it to these publishing sites. If it works for their audience, they will post it and you get your name in front of people you never otherwise would have and you get a backlink pointed at your own site. Also, guest posting helps you to build relationships with other sites and their readers. 

Competitor’s Links

One great way to increase your link building strategy is to analyze your competitor’s links. This will give you ideas of sources that you should be using for links for your own site. You can use Monitor Backlinks to examine their links.

After seeing what links your competitors have, make a list of those sites and try to get links from those sites or similar ones. Maybe take a piece of content they have on another site and rewrite it to make it better, and then send it out and try to get a link back.

Social Media

Even though many social media sites use no follow tags, I still believe that social media can definitely help you acquire better links for your overall strategy. Social media links might not increase your placement in the SERPs, but they are still links that are pointed to you that search engines can crawl, and as search engines continue to get better about using social sites to rank websites, it is something you want to use to your advantage.

However, one piece of advice. Make sure that you use the links on your social profile wisely. You want to send your viewers back to your website. That’s the end game.

Conclusion

Links are one of the top three factors that Google considers when deciding ranking, therefore, it is imperative that you have quality backlinks pointing to your site. If you work hard on your links, you should see real improvement to your rankings and your overall SEO.

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7 Questions to Ask When Brainstorming Content Ideas for Marketing

7 Questions to Ask When Brainstorming Content Ideas for Marketing

One of the requirements for a sustainable content marketing campaign is the aptitude for generating topic ideas. It may sound easy, but at some point, you’ll realize that this can be harder than producing the content itself — whether it’s a blog post, podcast or any form of visual content.

Smart marketers capitalize on tools that randomly generate titles based on keywords. There are also content research tools like BuzzSumo that can help you identify what’s trending in your niche. While these can help you obtain rough ideas on what your next piece will be about, they rarely provide you with usable titles that are worth publishing.

Brainstorming Content Ideas

Take note that you need a strategic approach when generating topic ideas. But before you finalize and start working on any title, be sure to ask yourself the following questions first:

1. Have You Done Anything Similar Before?

Some content marketers are guilty of reusing the same idea for multiple content pieces, especially if they contribute to different publications. If you’re really struggling to come up with something new, then you may revert back to old topic ideas.

Reusing a previous title idea can be advantageous as long as you’re doing it knowingly. Otherwise, you may disappoint subscribers who religiously follow your blog.

The first thing you can do is to explore the topic from a different angle or furnish it with a new set of actionable steps. If possible, you can also present it using a different format to appeal to new audiences. Old data-rich posts, for example, can be repurposed into infographics, which garner three times more engagement on social media.

2. Are There Sufficient Resources Online?

If you answered “no” to the previous question, then you probably lack comprehensive knowledge on the topic you chose. Sure, diligent content producers can relate to anything with extensive research, but it’s very difficult to instill value to new content if there aren’t enough information sources online.

Unless you have firsthand experience on a subject, make sure there are abundant research materials available before you get started. To establish yourself as a credible, authoritative brand, you should only provide 100 percent accurate information that’s validated by studies and other resources. And if you really need to delve into a topic, then be prepared to purchase reports and studies from certified research firms.

Additionally, make sure you only reference the most recent sources available. A simple trick is to filter results through search engines and content research tools by date instead of relevance.

3. Is There Similar Content Elsewhere?

Let’s face it — all content marketers have at least considered copying ideas or “borrowing inspiration” from other content producers. With millions of websites publishing content every second, it’s hard to come up with something that’s truly unique.

Although it’s fine if you don’t have first dibs on a new content idea, you should aim to make your version better in every single way. This is doable if you can update old data, add more information, or incorporate additional visual elements. But if you can’t do any of these, then you should ditch the topic and start anew. This involves getting links from authoritative websites that linked to the original content, making the technique highly beneficial for SEO.

4. Can You Offer Original Views and Add Value?

Take note that content marketing is now much more difficult than ever. If you keep on repeating everything that other publishers already shared, it’ll be impossible to cut through the content noise and make your brand stand out.

In addition to making your content better, assess if you can offer your original views to elevate its value. You can apply the information yourself to gain deeper insights and expound actionable steps. Finally, the content should also align with your brand’s voice — something that fosters familiarity between you and the online audience.

5. Can You Be More Specific?

Another way to be more unique is to dissect a topic into smaller pieces and focus on those individually. For example, if you initially wanted to cover influencer marketing, you can shift your focus on subtopics such as researching potential influencers, writing your outreach email and tracking relationships with brand advocates.

Every topic can be narrowed down with a little creativity and resourcefulness. Apart from finding subtopics, you can also tailor your new content to a different audience type. Play around with demographics such as age groups, employment status, income level, and location. This can unlock new topic possibilities with the same set of ideas.

6. Do You Have the Best Content Type in Mind?

In an interview with Mention, Rand Fishkin of Moz says that content marketers should explore new content types if they want to stay relevant.

“Content marketers are going to have to be more unique with the types of content they create,” says Fishkin. “They’re going to have more niche — serving smaller and smaller interest groups, but doing a better job of serving each of those.”

The good news is, brands don’t need a huge amount of capital to start diversifying their content arsenal. For example, simple visual content like infographics, quote cards and data visualizations can be created with a tool like Canva. It is a drag-and-drop platform that offers templates, icons and other features that can help you create shareable images within minutes.

Most modern smartphones are also capable of recording short video clips for social media. According to Cisco, videos will account for 80 percent of all online traffic by the year 2019. So rather than planning another blog post, consider writing an explainer video script instead.

7. Will It Come with a Catchy Headline?

The final touches of a topic idea involve crafting a captivating headline that’s searchable, audience-oriented, and compelling. After answering all the previous questions, make sure you can wrap everything up in as few words as possible.

According to Kissmetrics, the perfect headline is only six words long because readers tend to focus on the first and last three words. But since this is nearly impossible to pull off consistently, aim for anywhere from eight to twelve words. Ideally, you should use numbers and power words to make the headline more interesting.

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Why Video Has Become THE Hottest Digital Marketing Trend

Video Marketing Trends

Online marketing trends change with every new delivery method and channel. Each year brings new technology, new opportunities, and new social channels to catch user fancy. The big winners in the battle for buyer attention might be early adopters throwing resources into promising new technology that proves successful, or businesses who stick with a particular channel to build a huge following.

Video marketing is certainly not new, but the market is changing, and video has emerged as a clear winner.

Video Marketing Trends

YouTube already dominates the field, with a billion users watching hundreds of millions of hours every day. To sweeten the marketing appeal, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-old viewers than any of the cable networks.

While YouTube traffic expanded more than 40 percent since last year, video viewing options also opened up. Facebook now offers embedded videos and in-line livestreaming, and services like Periscope and Facebook are starting to attract the bravest of no-do-over video pioneers marketing in real time.

Video Ads in Search Results

Another clear indicator of just how popular video marketing has become is the inevitable launch of in-SERP video ads. Google and Bing are both testing video incorporation into rich search results.

The new True View for Shopping, a product that allows users to order products from inside a demo video, has already yielded impressive results. Sephora and Wayfair test cases report increased viewing time, revenue and ad recall.

With big retailers and eager viewers already on board and social media and SERPs ramping up viewer opportunities, video marketing is set to explode like never before.

Why Video Marketing is Effective

Content marketing and social media changed the marketing game in a major way. Brand storytelling took center stage, propelled by the advantages of humanizing and allowing businesses to connect in a more meaningful way with their customer base.

For small businesses, video is an inexpensive way to level the playing field. Here, big businesses and slick, expensive advertising spots don’t always have the advantage. Smaller companies can stand out in several ways:

  • Answering customer FAQs
  • Showcasing products in action
  • Asking for user-generated contributions featuring real-life customers
  • Introducing staff and showing an intimate look around operations
  • Demonstrating product use
  • Featuring video testimonials

Thousands of small YouTube businesses have built audience and credibility with simple, straightforward advertising, and case studies show that video has a big impact on sales, especially for small businesses and cottage industry. More than half of marketers responding to the 2014 Video Statistics study by Invodo said that video offers a higher ROI than any other type of content.

New Technologies in Your Future

Every aspect of marketing in the last few years has moved toward personalization, targeting and interactive content. New video technology takes the concept to a new level, with engaging videos that move from viewing into response. Data collection forms, surveys, polls and choose-your-adventure videos will become more common.

You’ve seen these formats in Hulu big business advertising for years, but not in heavy use elsewhere. That’s bound to change as new video production programs make fancy interaction cheap and available for any user.

Approximately 96 percent of B2B advertisers are already using videos, but smaller B2C businesses may have been slower to adopt due to production costs or simple reluctance to waste marketing dollars on a technology they may not feel is effective.

Now that you know which way the 2017 marketing winds are blowing, are you ready to jump on board with video marketing?

Video Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Why Video Has Become THE Hottest Digital Marketing Trend” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps

How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps

We are in the constant chase for web traffic but there’s a good chance we are not making the most of what we already have. We may be able to utilize some easy tweaks to get more out of our current visits.

Conversion optimization sounds intimidating for many business owners. It almost seems easier to get more people coming to your site then get more of them doing something when they are there.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that sometimes it takes just a few easy tweaks to see better results from your site current visits.

How to Increase Conversion Rates on Your Website

1. Add a Clear Call-to-Action

It’s unbelievable how often I land on a page and feel absolutely lost as to what I am supposed to do there. So many pages simply lack a clear call-to-action driving a visitor down the conversion funnel.

A simple clear call-to-action can make a huge difference. And in most cases it’s a really simple tweak.

Browse your website and try to visualize whether it’s clear enough what you want your visitors to do on every single page (Including those informational pages like “About us” and “Our privacy policy”). Never keep your visitors hanging: Show them the path!

2. Publicize Your Sales Materials

Your sales team (or you, if you are handling your sales process yourself) is likely to have developed some valuable materials that help complete those sales. If you sell services or SaaS, these are convincing case studies showing your work. If you sell products, these can be beautiful product catalogs.

If you want to go a step further, you can turn your case studies into well-designed online content like Iflexion did with their portfolio page:

How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps

Using your website as a digital hub for everything you have developed is a good idea. If I am trying to choose between two restaurants and one of them has the full menu downloadable from the site, I’ll most definitely choose that one. The more informed your visitors are given, the more trust they have in your brand.

3. Show a Real Person Behind Your Brand

There are an astounding number of business blogs which have “admin” as the author of each blog post … Or which have a totally impersonal “About page”.

People relate to people!

  • Add a personal story to your “About” page
  • Add names and photos of the managers
  • Add personal details of the sales and / or customer service teams on the contact page
  • Add an author byline to each blog post describing the author’s expertise

Use personal photos, details, stories throughout the site and you’ll notice a huge increase in conversions. According to Jakob Nielsen, if you offer a personable impression of the author, you enhance your credibility by the simple fact that you’re not trying to hide. People remember people and feel more confident buying from people.

4. Switch to a Responsive Design

I am listing this at #4 not because it’s not important to switch to a responsive design but because in most cases it’s not such an easy switch and this article focuses on easiest things you can perform.

Well, the good news is if your site (or part of it) runs on WordPress, going responsive may be actually very easy. Colorlib did a curated list of best responsive WordPress themes and it’s the most recent list I was able to find. Just pick a theme and customize it so it looks unique. Don’t forget to try using your site from a mobile device once you are done to make sure everything looks and works properly.

How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps

5. Add a Secondary Conversion Goal

Sometimes people are just not ready to buy. They may be doing their research. They can get distracted by real life or they may just decide to buy later. They will buy from your brand when they are finally ready though. The key is being there for them when they are ready.

That’s why adding a secondary conversion goal is so essential. Let your non-buyers subscribe and tie them to your brand to mildly remind them of your business in months to come. Send them coupons or gift ideas for the holidays or update them of your important news. What is going to keep them engaged with your brand depends on the nature of your business but being able to contact those who once considered buying from you is gold.

Don’t be too aggressive though: You don’t want to distract your potential buyers from the main goal, i.e. a direct sale. Keep your secondary conversion channel hidden until the user is ready to exit.

How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps

Hubspot lists more examples of cool calls-to-action to get inspired.

Sometimes we are doing so much to discover and develop new traffic channels for our website that we totally miss the lower-hanging fruit. Don’t let that happen to you! Utilize your current traffic to its full potential to achieve even better results when your traffic grows!

Are there any other ways to easily improve your site conversions? Let us know in the comments!

Looking at Computer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Increase Conversion Rates On Your Site in 5 Easy Steps” was first published on Small Business Trends

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4 Powerful Marketing Tips for Your Small Business

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4 Powerful Marketing Tips for Your Small Business

There’s so many ways to develop a brand, and so much advice on how to do it. It can be hard to distill the enormous amount of information available to small businesses who need help letting people know why their company is so important. Here are my four best tips for growing your business and your brand.

Get to Know the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is quite amazing and most people don’t realize how many resources they have. In addition to connecting small businesses that need funding with lenders, they offer tons of information on every aspect of running a business, including developing a marketing plan, the relationship between marketing and sales, and how to set a marketing budget.

Use Social Media — but Don’t do Too Much Too Soon

Entrepreneurs getting started with social media marketing often make the mistake of overdoing it. You don’t need to be everywhere, and your messaging doesn’t need to convey all things to all people. Begin by picking a small number of social media channels that are going to help your business. Then stick to messaging that’s closely related to the core value proposition of your business. Facebook is great because it can target customers based on local geographies and other parameters. Sure, it’s a little old fashioned, but it’s basically the yellow pages of the internet age, and it’s also a way to connect people directly to your business. Others like Twitter can be used in a similar way, but Facebook is a great starting point.

Take Advantage of the Cloud

The great thing about being a newer, smaller business is that you’re not handcuffed by the same technology investments as your older, larger competition. You’re free to invest in all kinds of cloud services that place the burden of technology management on someone else. Cloud services are easy to get up and running, and they give you near infinite room to grow. On the marketing front, cloud-based services like Canva, allow you to create graphic designs for social media and other marketing efforts. Constant Contact can help you send email newsletters to current and potential customers. And there’s certainly no shortage of cloud-based marketing automation applications to choose from.

Protect Your Most Valuable Marketing Asset — Data

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in: You’re going to be generating lots of data about orders, seasonal spikes in sales, customer preferences, contact information and much more. That information will fuel all of your marketing efforts going forward — and it needs to be protected. That’s why you should consider a cloud backup service like Carbonite. With cloud backup, your data is easily accessible from any internet-connected device — and cloud backup protects your business data from malware, computer theft, accidental deletion and natural disasters.

Norman Guadagno is Chief Evangelist and Senior Vice President of Marketing at Carbonite, a provider of cloud backup and recovery solutions for small and midsize businesses.

Small Business Owner Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “4 Powerful Marketing Tips for Your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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